Canada: mining the youth vote gold

As Canadians go to the polls, will young people vote this time?

According to the BBC "just a third of Canada's 18-24 year olds bothered to vote in 2008."   The young have ceased to engage, a decline started in the 1970s.  'Vote Mobs' at university campusses have been filmed and put on YouTube in an attempt to reverse the trend.  With the Conservative vote falling, the Liberal support declining and a surge in intentions to opt for the left-wing NDP, will the young decide that Canada's political future matters?

Most people tend to be left-leaning when young, so any rise in the youth vote would likely help Jack Layton's New Democrats, already second on 31% behind outgoing minority Conservatives under PM Stephen Harper on 34%, according to Ekos, a polling organisation.  Michael Ignatieff's left-of-centre Liberals trail on 21%.

Last time the NDP garnered only 18.18% support.  So the latest predictions are nothing less than amazing.  If the youth do come out and vote, could Jack Layton head a new government in coalition with the Liberal Party?  Very possibly.

The NDP want to raise taxes and spend on social policy.  Suddenly, the dynamics of federal Canada will change out of all recognition.  

This is due in no small part to the NDP crossing the language divide, rising to No.1 in Quebec and higher than they have previously in Anglophone provinces.  Layton's likeable personality and resilience in the face of recent illness have been contributers to the NDP's success.  The campaign has enlivened Canadian politics, and propelled Layton into serious contention.  As Quebecers seem to take to the man, will Canadian 18-24 year olds too?

UPDATE:  Clearly yes but not by enough, as it happens.  Stephen Harper's Conservatives are projected to win an outright majority, according to Toronto Globe & Mail.  The winner needed 155 seats to gain supremecy in parliament.  Results are projected as follows: 

Conservative  165
NDP 102
Liberal 34
Bloc Quebecois 4
Green 1

So, Harper looks set to win his mandate.  Layton takes the Opposition mantle, claiming he'll be "constructive", according to the Toronto Globe & Mail.   

The Liberals are shattered, and will take time to recover.  As the TGM puts it, this is two-party politics.  There's even speculation that the Liberals as an independent force are finished, and that now merger with the NDP is on the cards.  That'd be unlikely, and probably unnecessary.  Conservatives dropped from 169 seats in 1988 to only 2 in 1993 and bounced back, eventually regaining power.  So discussion of a Liberal demise may be premature.  The social democratic NDP and the Liberals could nevertheless become bedfellows, as the SDP and Liberals did in the UK to create the Liberal Democrats, a "big tent" party embracing a range of ideologies.  Canada forms, re-forms and disbands parties at an alarming rate, so it's always possible.  This might be due to having a PR voting system in place.

The Bloc Quebecois leader has resigned and the party's showing is too miniscule to provide them with party status in the new parliament.  

But turnout was up, partly due to the Vote Mobs, but also the rise in New Democrat support.  Although Layton struck gold, it was at the expense of the Liberals and to the benefit of the Conservatives.  If the NDP provide constructive opposition and bolster youth participation, perhaps they can make the final leap into government in 2015.

No comments:

Post a Comment